Gardening tips: Grow your own salad bar!

Salad trough
Salad trough

By Martin Fish, Garden writer, broadcaster and advisor

It’s salad time again with the onset of warmer weather. For much of the year I must admit I’m not a huge eater of salads, but during the summer months when I’m able to pick it fresh from the garden I suddenly become a salad fan!

Freshly picked lettuce leaves, radishes plump and juicy, tomatoes warmed by the sun and a cool cucumber all taste so much better when harvested and eaten straight away.

When it comes to growing salad crops there is a large variety of different lettuces and salad leaves to choose from and these can be grown from late spring until the first frosts of the autumn.

The secret is to sow and plant little and often so that you have a continual supply over the summer, rather than a glut! Seeds can be sown directly into a small patch of garden where you need to keep the soil moist, or you can start the seeds off in small pots or cell trays and plant the seedlings out when the seedlings are a few inches tall.

At this time of the year garden centres and nurseries often have a range of small salad seedlings for growing on and these will establish and grow on very quickly in warm weather. Of course you can also grow a good range of salads and other vegetables in hanging baskets, wall mangers and planters that will keep you supplied with fresh produce.

Growing this way is ideal where garden space is limited and if you have a series of wall troughs, they can be screwed to a wall or fence at a convenient height. Lettuce and salad leaves are an obvious choice and if you grow the cut-and-come-again types you will be picking fresh leaves for a long period. By planting a mixture of coloured leaves the planter will also look attractive on a wall.

Other crops that you can grow in planters include, baby beetroot, short carrots, radishes, spring onions, tumbling tomatoes and a selection of summer and perennial herbs.

Most of these are very easy to grow as long as you water and feed regularly. With just a little planning and care you can easily be self-sufficient with fresh salad crops through the summer from your very own salad bar!

Jobs for the week

At the moment roses are flowering really well and have masses of flower buds that will open over the summer.

To keep them flowering remove faded rose blooms as soon as they fade. This not only keeps the plant looking tidy, it encourages more flowers to open. You can either cut them off with secateurs or simply snap off the dead head.

Young climbers will need support as new shoots grow. This can be in the form of trellis or netting for climbers such as clematis to scramble through or wires for climbing roses and wisteria.

Young leek plants can be planted into the vegetable garden now. I make a hole appox. 10cm deep with a dibber, pop in a leek plant and fill the hole with water to settle the roots.

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